Design Projects: Information You Should Provide Your Designer

“Design is about getting the right idea, and getting the idea right,” according to Marty Neumeier. So how do you get the most from your projects and achieve critical marketing goals? Do you have a clear vision or do you want your designer to develop the ideas for you?

Clear information and direction are vital to a design project’s success. Defining your objectives, target audience and your optimum results will enable a designer to meet your needs and overcome challenges effectively.

It is best to provide a thorough brief that sketches out the task at hand. However, when clients have a vague goal or an incomplete brief, it is the designer’s responsibility to lead and to get the required information. Whether you are the client or the designer, here is what should be covered:

1.  Scope

What is the project? What is the budget? What are the deliverables? Will the images and copy be supplied? What is the timeframe?

Communicating these important information at the start of the process gives the designer a framework and enables him or her to clearly define the visual problem and devise solutions.

We have been working on our annual online holiday card. In this case, the budget is essentially zero because we produce it internally. The goal is to wish our clients and prospects the best for the season but also to illustrate our range of digital capabilities and creativity. Although we started early, we know we have to complete all revisions by early December.

In this case, after Kelly, Unmana and I brainstormed the concept, Kelly provided the copy and some images she researched. Taking this input, I am working with the Affinity Express Interactive Team to execute the design and ensure we meet the deadline. At every stage, I ask myself if we are getting closer to meeting the goal and showing what our company is capable of. This helps me to lead others effectively and give constructive feedback.

2. Project objective

What are the objectives of this project? What response do you want to elicit? What impression should your audience be left with? Sometimes marketing efforts are focused on increasing awareness and, even more often, they want to drive lead generation and sales.

Having a clear purpose will help your designer to craft his or her creative approach.

Design for cosmetic brand with Affinity Express logo and text "Making your brand beautiful"

Sometimes, when the sales team is focused on a specific company, I develop custom artwork and images to showcase our creativity and expertise in a way that is unique to the prospect. With a major cosmetics company, I researched their branding and advertising. Ultimately, I came up with a design (above) that used our logo as if it were an eye shadow pallet—tying our business to that of the prospect in an interesting way to get initial attention that starts a conversation.

3. Target market

Who is your primary audience? What are the gender, age, education, lifestyle and preferences of your target audience?

These details help designers determine the type of visual imagery they will create.

Affinity Express serves retailers, multi-media publishers and other companies that support small- to medium-sized businesses. When we recently created a brochure to communicate the range of print and interactive services we provide for retailers, I researched appropriate images and samples that would show our expertise. This had to be very specific to the sub-categories of retailers we serve and cover circulars, coupons, emails, QR codes, landing pages, mobile-optimized sites and more. If I wasn’t told anything about our target market and their challenges, I might have picked the wrong product samples and caused a disconnect for sales with their prospects or even prevented them from getting meetings.

Direct mail I designed for retailers

4. Branding

According to Walter Landor, founder of Landor Associates, “Products are made in the factory, brands are made in mind.” Talk to your designer about the attitude and individuality of your brand. Provide guidelines on standards your designer must adhere to and avoid. It will be helpful to show the materials you are currently using—to give him or her an idea of what you like.

If your company does not currently have corporate branding guidelines, or in addition to them, provide design samples that inspire you (e.g., colors, font, images, graphic elements, etc.). When you let your designer know your taste, he or she will get closer to producing what you’ve envisioned.

For example, Kelly will often ask me to format and enhance PowerPoint presentations that are compiled by our salespeople so they not only convey the important messages but also showcase our skills in design. She edits the content first and will point out any branding non-conformities to me. Then we work to decide what types of images will get our points across when we are addressing business to business topics, rather than using old, overused stock images.

5. Specific properties

Amid all the above, don’t forget to share specifics. Is it low-resolution because it is for web? Or should it be high-resolution because it is a print ad?  What should the size of the design be, and the orientation (landscape or portrait)? Forgetting to provide these details might cost you unnecessary time and money in revisions.

In my previous job, when I supervised a photo shoot for our bank collateral, I made sure that the photographer provided many options and the framing wasn’t too tight so it might be rendered on different products such as flyer, brochure, print ad and presentations. This saved me a lot of trouble when my boss decided to use the same photos on a different set of collateral.

Communicating all of this information from the start can make a major difference in helping you to get projects done faster and at a lower cost (as revisions can get expensive with external and internal resources). You can rely on designers for creativity and insight and, sometimes, you will get an outcome you love but couldn’t possibly have envisioned. But designers can’t read your mind, so you increase your chances of success by arming them with as much detail and reference material as possible.

If you are a designer, what inputs are most helpful to you? If you are a client, have you gotten designs that went beyond your wildest dreams and, if so, what did you do that resulted in this outcome?

About Mel Fernandez
Mel is senior graphic designer for marketing at Affinity Express. He combines his love of art with an understanding of advertising and marketing principles to create effective designs.

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